Microsoft Office’s ‘Woke’ Spellchecker Gets New Attention

January 16th, 2022 12:23 PM

Microsoft Office’s “woke” spellcheck program is getting new attention after its creation in 2020.

Gizmodo and Daily Mail reported on the feature this week.

Microsoft said it first created the feature in March 2020, and that the feature reportedly flags “insensitive phrases,” according to Gizmodo:

“Some examples include changing 'blacklist' and 'whitelist' to 'accepted' or 'allowed list,' or swapping the gender-specific 'postman' with 'postal worker.' Similarly, 'humanity' or 'humankind' is recommended over 'mankind,' and 'expert' is suggested when the software flags 'master,' a term linked with slavery.”

The feature is reportedly turned off by default, but users can customize settings to flag some inclusive features while leaving others turned off. The “offending” terms are underlined in purple and inclusive alternatives are suggested.

According to the Daily Mail, other examples include: 

“[E]xamples…are 'maid' (Word suggests 'house cleaner'), 'showgirl' ('dancer' or 'performing artist'), 'headmaster' ('principal'), 'mistress' ('lover'), 'master' ('expert'), and 'manpower' ('workforce').”

The Sun first reported the story.

For its part, Microsoft recognized that the feature probably isn’t “suitable for all scenarios.”

“Microsoft understands that not every Editor suggestion may be suitable for all users and all scenarios,” the company told Daily Mail. “That’s why we let users be in control of their final output. Editor is a completely optional tool that users can turn on or turn off at any point. Editor does not make any autocorrections. The user has control over which suggestions they choose to use, if any. They will be able to turn on and off each one of them individually.” 

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